Government Law

Lawmaker Seeks Partial San Francisco Nudity Ban, Calls Bare Minimum Towel-on-Chair Law Insufficient


Seeking to balance the rights of those with liberal and conservative views on public nudity, a San Francisco lawmaker last year successfully introduced an ordinance which sought to legislate a bare minimum governmental restriction on those who wanted to let it all hang out.

But that ordinance—which requires individuals to cover up in restaurants and place a towel or similar object on a chair or bench before sitting down in public with a naked posterior—didn’t go far enough, Supervisor Scott Wiener now says. While public nudity is considered a civil right by some residents of San Francisco, it is also the No. 1 complaint of his Castro district constituents. So he introduced new legislation Tuesday that would ban exposed genitals or buttocks on city sidewalks, plazas, parklets, streets and public transit, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

It appears to have a good chance of enactment—the Board of Superiors unanimously passed the ordinance Wiener introduced last year, and the city’s mayor supports the new one.

Existing law prohibits nudity in parks, restaurants and port property. But the proposed ordinance would still permit individuals to be nude at festivals, street fairs and parades, as well as at public beaches and on private property.

Without a law making nudity illegal in and of itself, police can take enforcement action in response to objections by other (presumably clothed) individuals whose standards are more conservative only if those in the buff are also engaging in lewd behavior, the Chronicle article explains.

If Wiener’s new proposal passes, however, those found nude in prohibited areas could be ticketed on that basis alone. The penalty would be a fine of $100 for a first infraction, $200 for a second within 12 months and, for a third offense, either a misdemeanor citation or a third infraction ticket with a $500 fine. Berkeley and San Jose already have similar laws.

While some in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have advocated public nudity, Wiener says he also gets the most complaints about public nudity from gay residents.

“Some people say this is not what we fought for,” he said. “Being able to expose your genitals at Castro and Market is not the goal of the LGBT civil rights movement.”

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Nudists Seeking a Say re Proposed San Francisco Towel-on-Seat Law Must Wear Clothes at City Hall”

ABAJournal.com: “‘PI Firm Sponsors Naked Bike Ride, Tells Participants ‘When You’re Naked, We’ve Got You Covered’”

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